Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Fun (and varied) Back-to-School Reads!

Olivia and the Best Teacher Ever
Adapted by Ilanit Oliver
Illustrated by Shane L. Johnson

Olivia's teacher, Mrs. Hoggenmuller, is competing for the Teacher of the Year award. The winner of the award gets her picture up on all the school buses for that year! A judge, Mrs. Stern, comes to observe the class and decide whether Mrs. Hoggenmuller is worthy of the award. Olivia and her friends decide that they are going to do all in their power to show that their teacher should be Teacher of the Year. Despite all their efforts, when the class frog lands on Mrs. Stern's head, Mrs. Stern leaves in a huff, promising that Mrs. Hoggenmuller will not be the recipient of the award.

I always feel a bit skeptical of books that are adapted from a well-known and loved character. Ian Falconer's Olivia books are lovely. Though Olivia and the Best Teacher Ever pales in comparison to the original Olivia stories, children who have fallen in love with this creative pig will also enjoy this story.


Dora Goes to School
Adapted by Leslie Valdes
Illustrated by Robert Roper

Children who love Dora the Explorer will enjoy this little story! Dora is on her way to her first day of school when she meets up with la maestra Beatriz, whose bike has gotten a flat tire! How will Dora, Boots and Maestra Beatriz get to school on time? Children will enjoy following along on Dora's map to see the exciting route taken to get to school on time. The bright, colorful pictures will appeal to young readers as well.


Marco Goes to School
By Roz Chast

I was pretty excited about this book when I opened it up. Marco is a little red bird whose mother happens to be a human. He is bored. Bored with his sandbox, bored with the TV, bored with doing laundry. Marco's mom tells him that he's going to be starting school. When Marco goes to school, he makes a new friend and gets to experience classroom life.

Though some of the humor was fun and a little quirky, and though the illustrations were fun, I was a little disappointed with the book. The story felt disjointed in places, and at one point I started at an illustration and the text underneath for a while, trying to figure out its connection to the story. I was also disappointed that the teacher and learning in the school environment were so poorly portrayed. Pretty much all the teacher says is, "Blah, blah, blah," and Marco is constantly tuning her out in favor of his much more interesting fantasies. Maybe worth a read, but not my favorite!


One of a Kind
By Ariel S. Winter
Illustrated by David Hitch
One of a Kind in an imaginative story about a little boy named Lysander who is the only only child attending a school for twins. He feels left out and alone until the school's yearly event Twindividuation, which is a series of events 'meant to encourage individuality.' In each of the events of Twindividuation, Lysander excels. Whether it's singing a solo or the one-man relay, or choosing a flavor of ice cream without twin consultation. Lysander learns that, though being an individual can sometimes be lonely, sometimes being an individual has its benefits too. Very cute! Check it out!


Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World
By Susan Hughes

Off to Class is one of my new favorite back-to-school reads. Simply put, this book tells the story of a wide variety of schools from around the world. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the chapters don't cover the prosaic subjects like 'desks,' and 'writing utensils.' The author addresses some of these differences, but via different avenues. Many things prevent children from attending schools: weather, distance, financing. I was amazed to discover all of the creative ways those barriers are being overcome throughout the world to allow children to get the education they need! This book, written for middle-grade readers, does a nice job of mixing text and pictures, personal anecdotes and facts. I highly recommend Off to Class!

*These books were sent for review purposes.

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